COVID-19 spurs anxious, upsetting dreams

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The coronavirus is on the minds of many Americans and it’s nearly impossible to escape during the waking hours. But now doctors are saying the events of the outbreak are entering people’s psyche through their dreams, resulting in anxiety.

“Any crisis tends to stir up our dream life,” Harvard University dream researcher, Dr. Deirdre Barrett, told News 8. “It tends to make us more anxious…we have more anxiety and intense thoughts when a crisis comes along.”

Barrett began investigating how the coronavirus is affecting people’s sleep back in March. She coined the term “Pandemic Dreams”–also the name of her newly published book–and has accumulated over 10,000 responses from people across the country who’ve shared the COVID-19 visions that play in their head as they try to get a night’s rest. 

Examples of pandemic dreams, she said, include people dreaming about their home being transformed into a COVID-19 testing center without their consent, being surrounded by people not wearing masks and getting infected with the coronavirus. Her research is ongoing.

Should a person be suffering from pandemic dreams, Barrett recommends thinking about friends and family or other things that make you happy before you head to bed. This will help lessen their intensity.

To read more about Dr. Barrett’s work, click here

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Instagram @reportergillis and Facebook @DrMaryGillis.


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